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Vinoba Bhave was one of the great spiritual leaders & reformers of modern India,who was loved by countless indian’s. Born in 1895, at the tender age of ten, Vinoba took a vow life-long celibacy & selfless service. and then he met Gandhi and joined him in his struggle for freedom.
As Vinoba himself put it: ” I experienced with Gandhi the peace of the Himalayas the revolutionary spirit. Peaceful revolution, revolutionary peace, the two streams united in Gandhi in a way that was altogether new.”
Gandhi also wrote to Vinoba’s father, “At a tender age, Vinoba has acquired a degree of spirituality & ascetism that took me years of patient labour.”
In 1940 Gandhi chose Vinoba to be the first Satyagrahi, to offer non-violent resistance to the British regime. Vinoba respected other religions also and studied them. Vinoba’s life shows the harmony of a great man, and his commitment to non-violence, and power of love.
After independence of india when gandhi’s idea started to fade from people’s memory, vinoba started his “bhoodan” movement. And in a period of twenty years, he travelled all across india by foot. Persuading landlords to give their land to poor people and he successfully distributed four million of land among poor people.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BHOODAN-GRAMDAN MOVEMENT
The Bhoodan Movement or Land Gift Movement was initiated and inspired by Vinoba Bhave 1951. It was a land reform movement. And it helped in bringing Vinoba to the limelight.
In 1951,the Third Annual Sarvodaya Conference was held at Shivarampali, a village a few miles south of the city of Hyderabad in South India. Vinoba left to attend the meeting and walked three hundred miles to Hyderabad. At that time there was communist rebellion in telangana. This army had tried to break the land monopoly of the rich landlords by driving them out or killing them and distributing their land.Vinoba thought that in future there was a contest between principles of Gandhi and marx. In Hyderabad vinoba’s and other gandhians got their faith in non violence tested.
On April 11th 1951, the final day of conference,Vinoba said that he would tour the areas where communism was at peak in telangana.
On April 18th 1951, was the day when Bhoodan movement started, when Vinoba entered Nalgonda district, where communist were in force. there he was confronted by local landless people and they gave him a warm reception. Vinoba visited harijans colony and later in day harijans came to ask him for eighty acres of land. Then Vinoba suggested that of government is not giving land then possibly villagers can help each other. And then “Vedre Ramachandra Reddy Bhoodhan”, the local landlord promised to give hundred acres of land. This incident which was neither planned nor imagined was the very outset of the Bhoodan movement and it made Vinoba bhave think that this method can be used to solve the biggest root of poverty in india that is land less people. The root of land monopoly, he reasoned, is greed. If greed can be removed from people’s mind,it would lead to end of the exploitation of poor people. As he later put it, “We do not aim at doing mere acts of kindness, but at creating a Kingdom of Kindness.” This movement later on went to become more radical program and turned into village gift or Gramdan movement. This movement was a part of a comprehensive movement which led to the establishment of a Sarvodaya Society, both in India & outside India. In the United States, major articles on Vinoba appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker-Vinoba even appeared on the cover of Time.
Some argue that the land given as a gift is often poor quality, barren, rocky and uncultivable. But its said that no land can be called useless. He used to say that more than the quality of the land,it should be seen that there is willingness among people to give their property for a social cause.and that is the seeds of a mighty revolution. And the poor quality land could be utilized for pastures, afforestation, the rehabilitation of displaced people.
The movement had its ups and downs. Vinoba went on to demand fifty million acres of land from whole of india for the landless people by 1957. And hence a movement which was personal became a mass movement. But its downfall started in 1971 and it collapsed under its own weight. And the land gift movement got changed into village gift or “gramdan”. In gramdan major part of village was donated by majority of villagers in favour of distribution of land equally among all village’s families. Meanwhile the land gift was still there but it was neglected.
The main reason for the decline was the fact that it was not popular in non -tribal areas.
There were other programs also such as Sampattidan (Wealth-gift), Shramdan(Labour-gift), Jeevandan ( Life-long commitment to the movement by co-workers), Sadhandan (gift for agricultural operations).There were questions as to why the sampattidan, for example, was not launched at the same time as the bhoodan. As the Landless people receiving land due to bhoodan can’t work on it unless they have the required materials. But acharya ji said “he knew it from the beginning, but he chose to follow the formula which says ‘attend yet to the root and all else will grow automatically.’ As everyone knows that fundamental problem is land.
The movement not only brought land to landless people but it also helped in igniting interest of people in gandhian philosophy as educated people were overlooking those ideas if not considering irrelevant.
Many people got moved by this movement among the prominent were Jayaprakash Narayan, a renowned Marxist, and a Socialist. He was a big leader in politics before and even after india’s independence. He came close to the movement and realized that it was a very good idea which had its basis on gandhian philosophyand he devoted his life for sarvodaya society.
The movement was attracting not only attention from indian people but also from foreigner. Louis Fischer, the famous American said: “Gramdan is the most creative thought coming from the East in recent times”. Hallam Tennyson, the grandson of the English poet, Alfred Tennyson, wrote a book, “The Saint on the march” in which he shared his experiences as he travelled with vinoba bhave in rural india. And American ambassador to India Chester Bowles, said in his book, “The dimensions of peace”: “We experienced in 1955, the Bhoodan Movement it is giving the message of Renaissance in India. It offers a revolutionary alternative to communism, as it is founded on human dignity”.
The British Industrialist, Earnest Barder was so much impressed by the Bhoodan movement that he implemented the Gandhian concept and alloted 90% share of his company to his industrial workers. Arthur Koestler, in 1959 wrote in London Observer, that the Bhoodan Movement was presenting itself as a substitute to the Nehruvian model of Western development.
To conclude it can be said that even after having its limitations “bhoodan movement” was a splendid attempt for soving land problems thorough means of gandhian philosophy. And it helped in construction if socio-economic-political order of relevance and significance.
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